Benefit Auction: Help buy a normal lens for the New Yorker Photography Department

Obama Inauguration Ball Photos by Platon
Obama Inauguration Ball Photos by Platon

Platon became a staff photographer for the New Yorker last year, primarily shooting black and white portraits on a white seamless background. Standing in the shadow of former New Yorker staff photographer Richard Avedon has never been an easy task, especially when working in Avedon's trademarked style. While Platon's portraits of military personnel last Fall entitled Service showed a range of full length portraits along with tighter detail shots and a sprinkle of documentary work, his latest series of Portraits from the Obama Inauguration Balls in the New Yorker led to some concern amongst the staff here at the Words photography blog. We all know that times are tough for photographers, but we're worried that perhaps either Platon or the New Yorker were forced to sell off their normal and telephoto focal length lenses on eBay? All of the shots in the inauguration ball portraits show evidence of being taken with a wide angle lens.

Now if you're shooting with a 4x5 camera, and are limited to one lens, a wide angle is a great choice. With a big negative you can always crop. But for a magazine that primarily features portraits, we really recommend a normal or telephoto lens for full length work. Female subjects will really appreciate the slimming effect that a longer focal length has on their hips, and those wearing sleeveless attire will be pleased by the reduction of the dreaded "trucker arm" syndrome. No portrait sitter wants to be burdened with the feeling that their hands look really big -- so until this benefit is over, we're advising all portrait subjects of the New Yorker to keep their hands in their pockets, and to stand as parallel to the camera as humanly possible to eliminate the risk of funhouse mirror head shrinking or enlargement.

Because we want to ensure that future portrait features in the New Yorker are a bit more flattering to their subjects, we're auctioning off a limited edition of 15 prints at a very reasonable price: the Mad Mouse Rollercoaster panorama will be available for the month of Februrary in a 5x20" print for $40 + shipping. Please inquire if you would like to help the cause. If the edition of 15 prints sells out, we'll be able to use the $600 to purchase the following items for the New Yorker photography equipment room:

  • A used 150mm f/5.6 lens for 4x5 ($200-250)
  • Canon 50mm f/1.8 AF lens ($90)
  • Nikon 50mm f/1.8 AF lens $(140)
  • Bogen 055XB tripod ($160) -- raises higher than waist level, in order to not cut off portrait subjects' heads

By helping us purchase these important pieces of equipment, you'll not only be doing a big favor to the photographers who shoot for the New Yorker, you'll be doing a great service for over 1 million readers from all over the world. Won't you please purchase a print today. Thousands of future portrait subjects need your help!


A Simple Illustration of the Importance of Proper Print Lighting

I was recently revising the information that I send to the wonderful people who've purchased a night photography print. A sincere, heartfelt thanks to those of you who've decided to put one of my images on your wall -- I appreciate your support. The print info includes details about the Lightjet printing process, paper, print handling, and finishing options (matting, framing, mounting, etc.). I take great care in my printing and I hope it shows. Like everything else, prints are subjective, and printing night photographs that clearly "read" as night photography can be a particularly challenging enterprise. After printing and selling night photographs for a few years, I realized there is a key issue that needs discussion with fine art print clients: print display lighting. My ideal night photography printing style is a little bit on the dark side. For a night photography print to really sing, some type of dedicated lighting is required for the finished product.

Let's observe a visual illustration of this often overlooked aspect of presenting your work. The following photo was taken under low ambient room lighting, and adjusted to simulate how much detail can be seen in the print:

Arnold Schwarzenegger with ambient room lighting

You can't see much detail, and the contrast is flat. What this print really needs is a dedicated light source to reveal the inherent artistic majesty:

Arnold Schwarzenegger with proper print lighting

The dedicated lighting makes this print the centerpiece of the room. The print now displays excellent detail and snappy contrast. The pictures tell the story better than I can explain this concept in words. If you want to print deep, dark luscious night photographs, they're going to need some display lighting. Without proper lighting your customers will see a flat, dark print that reveals their reflection in the glass. But with proper lighting your work will soar.